Pass You By
Summary: Written for the Oz ficathon for kbk.
He is done.
The revelation comes to him as he’s driving along a nearly deserted highway at three in the morning.
It’s not as dramatic as it sounds; he’s not thinking about The End (complete with capital letters) or anything. He has been done with love and all it entails for quite a while now, but this… this final closing of that chapter is brought upon him like an oncoming truck. Which, he thinks vaguely, is not the best metaphor to use while driving.
He has dated a few times since leaving Sunnydale.
Those times are not worth telling. Oz finds that all women are too much like Willow, or else not enough.
He has moved on, and so he is done.
He doesn’t regret it, either. The rare times he sits to have a chat with the few friends he’s made wherever he lives at the moment, they attempt to ‘talk some sense’ into him. They speak the usual words about not giving up and he’ll surely find someone and doesn’t he want children?
He smirks and tells them he already has one.
Smiling at their expressions, he adds that he means the young neighbour boy.
Aaron’s got a smile like Xander’s and hair like Devon’s and, oddly enough, eyes like this hitchhiker Oz once picked up in Hartford, Connecticut. It’s strange how he notices these details, but has never thought to ask Aaron’s age. He supposes the boy is about seven or eight.
Aaron thinks Oz is the coolest person ever. He’s the self-appointed shadow, and likes to run next door to make his presence known so he can spill all about his day to Oz’s ever patient ear.
Once, Aaron asked his mother if they could adopt Oz, so he could have a brother. His mother merely looked at Aaron and reminded him that he already had a younger brother.
“Not like Oz!” Aaron had said.
If Oz is away for a day, Aaron is at the doorstep to greet his return. He’s full of questions about Oz’s travels, and the bands around his wrists. Oz speaks more to Aaron in a week than he does to the rest of the population in a year. After a while, he notices Aaron mimicking his concise way of speech in another attempt to be more like him.
Aaron likes to hear about Oz’s adventures on the road. He sits and plucks at the strings on Oz’s old guitar; Oz promises he’ll teach Aaron to play someday. He doesn’t mention that he may not be in that area for long.
Then Aaron’s gone before Oz is.
When Oz asks what happened, he expects a Sunnydale answer. Vampire or demon or monster; not a werewolf – he’d have known – but something of the nightmare sort. Aaron’s mother says he had a condition in his heart. And there is a sinking feeling in Oz’s own.
Different kind of nightmare. The kind that can never seem to be prevented.
Later when Oz stands at the small gravestone, he notes the date. Aaron had been six years old. Oz wonders why he never knew that, never knew the boy had a heart problem.
He never knew a lot. There is so much he never knows, so much he never lets anyone else know because he can never seem to escape the pain that follows him. When he packs up the remains of his life for what seems like the thousandth time, he comes to his guitar and stops.
Shutting his eyes, he begins to play the strings. There is no organization to his strumming, he is simply playing the notes that his fingers come across. And yet… There is a familiarity to the melody that can’t be explained, but just is.
He sighs, full of silent regret and sorrow, bitterness and hope and joy. A reserved joy - that he has been lucky enough to know such people, and the hope that he may see some of them again in time.
Oz places his guitar in its case and nods a farewell to his temporary home. Goes to start his van, leave for his next stop.
And thinks, maybe he is not done, after all.